Recognition Mistakes Managers Should Be Mindful Of

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Imagine that it’s your birthday. You receive a gift from your loved one. Your day has just improved a tiny bit. But hold on; the present isn’t precisely what you expected.

It is not something you want or need; it is a standard item that can be purchased anywhere. All of your hints were ignored by your partner. There is also no card or attractive packaging. In other words, not much thought or work has gone into it. How would that cause you to feel?

You might brush it off, say a big thank you, and look forward to a better gift the next time if it’s just a one-time occurrence. However, if this happens frequently, your feelings may become bitter over time as your hatred mounts. In the same way, when bosses offer praise at work, the very same thing could occur.

Unexpected difficulties

Let’s be transparent about one thing right now. More often than not, giving someone a present is a good deed. Showing your employees appreciation is also important. Nevertheless, recognition can occasionally have unpleasant side effects, like when a gift-giving expectation is unsatisfied.

But remember that rather than being the result of a singular incident, employees’ unfavorable reactions are typically brought on by a system or practice surrounding employee recognition. Fortunately, managers may quickly avoid any bad habits. The first stage is to become aware. By reading this section, you are helping yourself a lot already.

Now, you’ll get the opportunity to learn how to recognize your workforce as a whole rather than just the specific employees sincerely and meaningfully.

Giving credit only for show

It is a typical management procedure to recognize employees. However, a lot of bosses are overburdened and busy. Or, worse still, they do not even feel like they are valued or appropriately acknowledged. Even in the highest positions, people want to feel acknowledged.

Because of this truth, managers could feel pressured to give praise as part of their responsibilities. To “go through the motions,” they might also offer praise for minimal effort. Workers are people, and like everybody else, they can sense when praise isn’t sincere, which is the problem. Regularly giving staff subpar praise runs the risk of coming out as superficial or, worse, totally fake.

Fortunately, the answer is straightforward:

  • First, only acknowledge something when it is accurate. In other words, give staff praise when you think they deserve it rather than just because you have to cross something off your list. No matter if it only happens once every month.
  • Next, don’t be reluctant to express gratitude spontaneously. It’s not necessary to merely express gratitude for significant achievements. More frequently, you can support others in subtle, consistent ways.

Think about this. Imagine getting a present suddenly and without warning on a day other than your birthday or a special occasion. No matter how modest, receiving a surprise gift is always exciting! The most significant and long-lasting compliments are frequently those received unexpectedly and outside of a formal job accomplishment or milestone.

In a similar spirit, you ought to refrain from establishing rigid recognition targets, such as the requirement that you award at least ten recognitions each month. By doing this, acknowledgment is reduced to a must-do item, reinforcing the sense of obligation. And in the end, praise runs the risk of being forced, and as a result, it is less effective.

Granting praise based only on performance

What sort of impression are you conveying if you only recognize exceptional work from a few people? Of course, it’s essential to acknowledge excellent work. But it might mistakenly imply that those who don’t reach the same standard of perfection are much less valuable.

Managers praise exceptional performance since recognition has historically operated in this manner.

Consider the traditional yearly evaluations, which are frequently performance-based. Employee productivity is praised when a new feature is implemented, or sales targets are met. Although praising employees for helping the firm reach its objectives is crucial, doing so too often has serious adverse effects. 

  • First, rewarding employees based on performance may come across as indifferent and make employees feel like mere numbers in the production process (and less like actual people).
  • Second, if stellar performance is the primary goal, only a few groups of top achievers might earn consistent recognition. Others on the team, however, who make contributions in less obvious ways, feel excluded.

It should go without saying that managers should recognize workers who set high standards and accomplish objectives. However, leaders should also take steps to highlight the remaining contributions.

Managers can accomplish this by rewarding staff for both work-related and non-work-related accomplishments, for instance:

  • The quiet dedication of a worker.
  • Their helpful demeanor.
  • A great sense of humor

As a result, everyone on your team—including those who performed less visible roles—feels respected and appreciated.


Identifying unhealthy working conditions

When workers go over and beyond, such as working late into the night or on the weekend to complete a job, management should take notice. Trust and commitment of that caliber are uncommon. 

It’s typical for developing a practice of staying late at the office, being constantly available, or working on the weekend to become detrimental for a person or, worse, create harmful standards for a team. Most significantly, not everyone can realistically be expected to meet this work expectation. Other workers might be balancing work with pastimes or other passions or taking good care of themselves and their households.

You risk unintentionally conveying the idea that you need to adhere to a high standard to achieve if you center your praise too heavily on instances of unhealthy work practices. This will have the same effect as solely awarding recognition based on accomplishments. It may result in managers only applauding a select group of outstanding employees or, in this example, those who demonstrate high dedication.

In a group, this may lead to emotions of favoritism and animosity. At the very most superficial level, workers who perform their duties well but are less committed after 5 p.m. may feel excluded or that their efforts are insufficient when doing excellent work at their occupations. Nevertheless, by remembering a few crucial activities, you can prevent your team members from experiencing feelings of anger or frustration:

  • Recognize less obvious behaviors, too: Praise staff members occasionally if they go over and above or put in extra time. However, you must walk a fine line by appreciating less obvious behaviors and efforts. In other words, recognize staff members who take on less apparent duties.
  • Be clear about your demands. Praise is acceptable if a worker puts in extra time above and beyond duty. However, you may also be clear with your staff and tell them that not everyone is expected to work those long hours.

Extending the same kind of gratitude at once

Consider the example of the birthday gift we gave at the beginning of this write-up. Because nobody is flawless, mistakes like these do occur. However, problems arise when the behavior starts to repeat itself. The concept of employee recognition is the same.

You won’t always be able to provide compliments or praise that is flawless or entirely inspiring. Since it would be unrealistic to anticipate that of any busy leader, it is not the intended outcome. The objective is to develop a consistent practice of diversified recognition.

One example of how you may accomplish this throughout the week is by expressing thanks during a one-on-one meeting or perhaps a brief mention in a team meeting. Nevertheless, making the additional work more relevant and personal when more considerable triumphs are attained.

Avoid consistently recognizing them the same way. This means that you don’t want to develop a habit of always providing the same kind of praise. Consider a boss who keeps all their glory for the end of every quarter. However, every week, employees seldom ever hear a word of support.

Or on the other hand, picture a manager who consistently concludes Friday meetings by complimenting the team and making statements like, “Wonderful job last week, team,” but never goes above and beyond to recognize the individual accomplishments. It won’t be long before that recognition stops working in both situations.

Three significant strategies can add some diversity to your recognition:

  • Frequency & Timing: Try to give brief commendations routinely rather than just at the week’s close or on Fridays during formal reviews.
  • Group vs. Individual: It’s essential to appreciate teamwork, but you should be more precise and compliment each person individually.
  • Format & Effort: Verbal appreciation is crucial, but there are instances when making more effort is necessary. That can entail sending your worker a brief email with extra depth and detail or giving them a small gift and message.


Speak with Your Staff

You may believe, as a leader, that you provide adequate recognition. But, likely, your staff doesn’t perceive your appreciation as highly as you do.

According to research, there is a significant gap between managers’ perceptions of how effective they recognize people and how valued those employees genuinely feel. Not to add that one of the most typical reasons why workers leave a company, as per Gallup’s data, is a lack of acknowledgment.

Making sure your team continuously feels supported and respected in the present. Direct communication with your team members is the best approach to understanding their feelings.

For instance, you might mention that you want to ensure that staff feels valued and acknowledged during your upcoming one-on-one meetings, then ask a few of the questions posed to support your recognition efforts.

  • Do you feel like the job you do is appreciated and recognized?
  • How can I assist and honor your work more effectively?
  • What kind of acknowledgment are you looking for?

Initially, you might think bringing up this subject with your staff is weird. However, there are instances when an open and honest discussion is required. To ensure that no workers feel frustrated or resentful, it’s essential to keep track of their recognition expectations (and whether you’re meeting them).


Receiving a present that is unoriginal or poorly made can be upsetting. However, if it doesn’t occur frequently, most individuals will ignore it and still express their gratitude to their spouses.

Similarly, is it okay that you occasionally put perhaps less energy into your recognition programs since you’re so busy? It is. The four forms of acknowledgment are not always undesirable. Instead, it’s the excessive usage of a particular kind of recognition.

Consequently, maintaining balance and being open to conversations are key to avoiding recognized hazards. With either of those two criteria in place, you can be certain that you’ll regularly satisfy each employee’s expectations and keep your team’s morale high.

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